Sunday, April 26, 2015

Screw It. I'm Calling it a Comeback, Now

The last time I am certain that I ran 8 or more miles was December 2011, and I think that this was my longest run since a seven-miler in Negril, Jamaica at the end of that same month.  The scenery of Mt. Wolf was not as nice, but the temperature was a bit more Brian-friendly.

It's on.  I am going to finish the Wild Half in three weeks, and I will probably be an emotional wreck afterward.  But that's ok. 

Thanks to Chris for pacing me through this one. I am going try one more long run of 8-10 miles and then   a shorter taper run the weekend before the race.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Race Report: 2015 Sole of the City 10K

I guess the Sole of the City 10K, held every April since 2012,  has become an annual tradition for my wife and I.  We've run each race since its inception; in 2012 we did very well, she PR'd (part of a ridiculous string of consecutive PRs of various distances) and I finished just under an hour.  Despite our participation in every Sole of the City 10K, I was very determined before the start of the race that we would never run this one again.  At least I'd picked up our packets the night before, so we didn't have to take stuff back to the car and then walk back to McHenry Row.

You see, the Sole of the City 10K is a logistical nightmare for someone coming from as far as York.  The race begins at the McHenry Row shopping and residential complex in Baltimore's Locust Point neighborhood, near Fort McHenry and the Baltimore cruise terminal. Knowing that parking for this race is a nightmare, because the McHenry Row tenants (understandably) don't want race traffic parked in their garages, Chris and I were determined to get down to the race an hour early.  We tried parking in the Phillips Seafood lot next McHenry row, heading behind the building where the parking attendant indicated.  Already, people were leaving this lot because it was full.  We then parked in an empty space in Phillips front lot, unable to believe our good fortune, only to be told that this was employee parking.  We ended up parking quite a few blocks away in an Under Armour lot.  It honestly wasn't that far, but I was so frustrated at that point, that I determined that this would be our last Sole of the City.

But then the race happened.

The gun went off, and I quickly remembered what I like about this race:  Its unique course around downtown Baltimore.  Don't get me wrong, lots of races run down Key Highway and back, and Key Highway is part of this race, but also gets over to Fells Point and Harbor East, which aren't part of the Kelly Shamrock 5K, or the Kids Peace Orioles Trick or Trot 5K, or (I'm told) the Baltimore Women's Classic.  The course has been changed the past two years from the first two, when it was a pretty flat loop first around Inner Harbor and then through the Federal Hill area, making for a fast first half of the race and a tough second.  Now, I think it is probably equally hilly the whole way through, although the fifth mile is mostly around the Inner Harbor and is quite flat.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  In sum, think the new course is nice.

And, despite the heat, I felt great.  It was in the mid 60s at race time, which felt very warm to me.  I'd run 6.2 the previous weekend when it was in the 40s.  This was HOT, and I was not prepared for that.  I felt very good through the first three miles, which took us down from McHenry Row; around the Inner Harbor via Key Highway and Pratt Street; then down Wolfe Street toward Fells Point,  and pretty good through mile 4, at which point we had crossed through the Harbor East area and approached the Pier 6 Pavillion.  The heat started to get to me around the 4 mile marker.  The fifth mile, around the Inner Harbor promenade to the Science Center, was the flattest, but without shade and I was dying.  I took one walk break at the fifth mile and another at about 5.5, and made it to the finish in 1:11:04.3, a little over 3 minutes slower than my 6.2 a week before. 

Have I ever mentioned that I don't like running in warm weather?  Note the gross uneven sweat pattern.  Now I'm worried that I have some sort of weird sweating disease.

Considering the heat, I'll take it!  The best part was that my legs felt great, it was the heat and my still getting back in condition that hurt me.  This distance was a stretch for me, so I was really happy with this result.

Race Review
So, despite my frustration with the parking, I think Charm City Run does a very good job with this event every year.  The course is interesting, there are sufficient water stops (mile 2 and mile 4 markers), the finisher celebration is good, and the swag is excellent. 

Men's (navy) and women's (aqua?) Under Armour hoodies.

The weather is a crapshoot in Mid-April ,(it was MUCH cooler the next day) but CCR can't do anything about that. 
There is one small thing that maybe they can (pun intended) do something about: light beer.  Look, there's no better beer than free beer, but why is it always low-calorie beers that sponsor these races?  I think a lot of runners "run for beer" and I run so that I can try new and exciting beers, with actual flavor. Beer snob though I am, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that the cold Miller Lite tasted damn good on a warm day after a tough race.

Gotta respect the O's can, but get me something with some hops!

That said, I stand by remarks about parking, and I wonder if this race has outgrown its location.  Baltimore area runners should know that Charm City Run has a store on McHenry Row by now.  Maybe it's time this race moved downtown where there are plenty of garages. 

But, even if it doesn't, I'll probably be out on the course running the 5th annual Sole of the City 10K.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


I'm currently in the process of planning my high school class' 20-year reunion.  I haven't kept in touch with most of my classmates, other than one close friend who I talk or text with several times a week, but it was a good group of people and I have generally good memories of the people in the class of 1995. But still, I have to admit that while I got along with everyone and my class didn't have anyone at all in it that I would say was a bully, the process has still brought back a fair amount of high-school anxiety that I didn't need in my life, particularly now, with my once-mighty hairline several inches receded and my waistline considerably expanded from those actually not-so glorious days.

Although I do think fondly back on my class, the whole process has made me realize just how many grudges and how much resentment I do have going back all they way to high school and beyond.  One of the things I liked about my graduating class, and really treasured about my senior year, was that it was really the only time I remember from first grade through 12th where I felt like I was free from bullying.  I remember one day, driving home from school after senior play practice (in which I had a lead) on a sunny fall day in my fun little car and thinking "life is really good."

In hindsight, even in those other years, I guess nothing that most people would think seemed too bad happened to me.  I got in some fights in middle school, and one of the same kids who picked on me for years in my church's youth group pushed me, without provocation I might add, into a bush in 6th grad and cut my face up quite badly.

But while the physical violence of my youth was pretty minimal, I was constantly mocked for my small stature, a high-pitched and squeaky voice (especially in 9th and 10th grade, when it started to change to its currently slightly less high and squeaky adult pitch and my voice would just crack all the time);, and my relative lack of athleticism.  Those were days in which I had zero self-confidence and I really dreaded going to school every goddamn day.

Back in December, the high-school friend that I still talk to and I went to my school's annual alumni breakfast.  Immediately after RSVPing, we both had second thoughts based on who we might encounter there.  There was only one of my old bullies that I thought might be likely to attend, and I told my friend basically "This guy made 9th and 10th grade hell for me.  If he's there, I have to say something and I'm not going to be able to be civil." I've seen this guy's picture on a FB group page for my high school, and I admit I looked him up.  He's gained a lot more weight than I have, but some of mine is muscle.  I think I could take him now, if it came to that.   I have to admit, I think part of me even hoped he would be there, because I was going to really make him feel like shit about how he acted back then. Back in high school, I wanted nothing more than revenge, and 19 years later, that still sounded great. 

Of course, he wasn't there, and my friend and I had a perfectly pleasant and uneventful breakfast at a table by ourselves in the school gym.

But I've thought about my less happy school days over the past few months as I've been planning the reunion, and I really can't think of why those days haunt me so.  

A few nights ago, during a bout with insomnia, I realized that while I have DESPISED these guys for over 20 years, they wouldn't even remember me -- not a chance -- and that every time I thought of one of them, I was still giving them power over me.  That went for the guys who picked on me every day in high school, the person I mentioned above in elementary school and later church youth group, the boss from my first job right out of college who set my career back with an undeservedly negative review (I know that this sounds like sour grapes.  I assure you that it is not, but this post is already too long for that story.) and a list of others too numerous to describe.

It also became apparent that there's just no reason for these grudges, anymore.  Life is good.  I have a wonderful wife.  I have a great job, or at least a job that I'm great at.  My family and friends love me. Cats are drawn to me for some reason.  I'm not the same person I was back then, and maybe my tormentors are not, either.

I decided, finally, after 20+ years in some of these cases, to forgive, and to let go of all my old anger.  And I felt ten pounds lighter the next morning. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Where I am Still Reluctant to Call it a Comeback...

But this is the best run I have had since 2012.  I ran the whole 10k (by myself...not a race) and felt great.

I don't know what it is, but over the last few weeks I have started to believe in myself again as a runner in a way I have not in a long time.  It started with my good runs in Virginia Beach and continued with some four-milers here and Manchester and the five-miler that Chris and I ran last week. 

And today...I am very thankful for today's run.  I don't think I have run this far since hurting myself at Spartan Race in mid-2012. 

I have felt good before and good stretches of running and my compartment syndrome symptoms would come back. They may again, but I am going to enjoy every mile while I can.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

If it Ain't Broke, Don't 21 Day Fix it. (But, Boy, is it Ever Broke.)

I've both talked about my need to lose weight in the past here, and also detailed a kind of sleazy approach the Beachbody company made to me, where they wanted me to write about one of their products, but weren't going to provide me with the opportunity to try it, first.

At any rate, with the need to lose weight now continuing to exist with no real focus or progress on that front, I'm now trying, along with my wife, Beachbody's 21 Day Fix program.   In short, it is a set of 30-minute workouts, one of which is to be done each day, along with a set of various-sized colored plastic food containers corresponding to different food groups, along with specifications for how many of each color container a person gets each day (which varies by weight).  For example, I might get 6 red containers a day; it doesn't matter what red-coded food item I put into that container, it's just portion size and ratios of "containers" that's important.

If it sounds confusing, it is a little, and I'm lucky to have my wife acting as the brains of operation, although she says most of the challenge is that she's mapping out recipes for two people with different allowances.

Supposedly, you can lose 10-15 pounds over the 21 days, and I do know people that have.  It sounds like a crash diet, and I was a little skeptical of that.  For us, the intent is more that we'll run multiple cycles to lose the weight we need to and maintain that weight while getting examples of healthy, well-portioned meals, and adding some things to the exercise routine, not that it's going to be a 21-day miracle diet, although I do think it is marketed that way or as a way to quickly get back on track.

So far, the results have been good.  I was 163.4 when we started, which is near the low end of my weight fluctuations over the past 2 years, and one week later I had lost 5 pounds.  That included a Saturday night where we went out for some beers with friends and Easter Sunday dinner with my family where I had two helpings of bacon, egg, and cheese casserole (It was really good, Mom!), a Belgian Waffle, and more bacon than I should have.

We have room to improve on the workouts.  Tuesday's leg workout was punishing.  Thursday was Cardio.  I missed Wednesday because I got home very late from the office, and then we didn't do Friday (both exhausted), Saturday or Sunday (just ran out of time between social obligations), or yesterday (I worked till well after 8:00).  We can do better, but we did run 5-miles on Saturday and I am trying to get back into a regular lifting routine.

As far as the challenges, it seems like it's too much at once, in a way, regarding exercise.  I'm trying to get back into long distance training, and I'm trying to start lifting again, and then at the same time there's these new daily workouts.  I'd like to do them because they will help me be better runner, even if in the short term it's a struggle.

As far as eating...

The dinners have been great.  We've had:

1. Crock-pot Turkey Meatloaf, 1/2 potato (butter and salty condiments ARE missed), and veggies.
2. Flat-out (flat bread similar to tortillas) pizzas -- delicious but since the toppings soak through its' not really "pizza".
3. Nachos -- would have been good but we burned the tortillas that get baked to make the chips. 

For lunch I've had turkey or tuna pitas, sometimes with lettuce.  Cheese or ketchup would be welcome; my big portion of ricotta did help today's turkey pita, even though it's not really a classic sandwich cheese. 

Breakfast has been eggs with veggies and/or mushrooms in them, sometimes with a piece of bread with (a small amount of) peanut butter on it, and half a banana.  It varies because you look at amounts of each container over the course of a day, not meal-by-meal.

Almost all the food we've eaten under the diet has been great, there's just a few places I'm struggling:
1. No ketchup (or condiments that I would use).  I've been eating a lot of eggs for breakfast, and without ketchup, it's very bland.
2. Very little cheese, normally.  In combination with #1, this is a disaster.  Sandwiches are dry and bland and lunch has been a struggle.  Today, though, I got to put an insane amount of Ricotta on a sandwich (Ricotta is in a different category than most cheeses).  Sometimes it just doesn't seem logical.
3. Coffee.  Sorry, diet.  I need to put Sweet 'N' Low and milk in my coffee.  That's not negotiable for me.

We have to make this do-able for us.  We will probably give ourselves one day a week (usually Saturday), where we will go out for dinner and have a beer or two and not worry about it, but if I am good 6 or 6.5 out of 7 days, that is a lot better than I have been doing!

It's too early for me to say whether I'd recommend the program or not, but the early results seem good, and I will update further here. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Operation Change of Pace

"I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide."
 -- Gandalf the White

"There's always a reason to quote 'Lord of the Rings'."
 -- Brian

For most of my running career, I've been an approximately 10:00 minute-mile runner.  I was usually faster on race day (except the marathon, of course), but this was usually the pace I was usually training at.  I haven't been that fast since my surgery.  I've only gotten two miles under 20 minutes once, and I think I managed one under-30 minute 3 miler.  That's ok.  What's not ok is that I don't seem to be able to consistently replicate my pre-injury attempts at this pace.  Even though I'm not hitting my old speeds, just trying to run at what seems like my natural pace seems to be a recipe for compartment syndrome pain.

Meanwhile, my wife has racked up distance running achievements far exceeding my own: eight half marathons (her ninth is this Sunday) following this past weekend's Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach.  I've noticed that when I run with her, I feel ok.  She trains at an approximately 12-minute mile pace and also incorporates a one-minute walk breaks every half mile as per an adaptation of one of Jeff Galloway's plans.  In both the Kelly Shamrock 5K in Baltimore two weeks ago and the Shamrock 8K in Virginia Beach, both distances I hadn't been able to hit in the past two month without pain, I ran with Chris, followed her plan, and felt great.  I also ran 4 miles on Monday by myself in Virginia Beach at a 5mph (12-minute mile) pace and felt very good.

The sample sizes are pretty small:  The Sole of the City 10K last year, which I really had no business running; the Kids' Peace Orioles 5K in November 2013, and the aforementioned 5K, 10K, and 4-miler are all post-injury races that I ran with Chris or using her run/walk plan, albeit in varying degrees of fitness and preparation by be me, without any compartment syndrome problems.  Those aren't the only races I felt good in.  I felt good at Rocky Run 10K and Celtic 5-miler last year.  But what about all the training runs where my shins and calves burned or where I couldn't move my foot?  I can't handle every run being a roll of the dice.

Between weather, illness, and my legs feeling like crap, I haven't gone more than 2 miles since February.  On Saturday and Monday, I ran 5 and 4 miles respectively, and felt better than I have since November.  Could it be that my injury is less aggravated at that pace (or that there is something about my stride that is different?).  I recall, when I had my bout of ITBS in 2011, that there was an optimal speed at which to run to reduce symptoms (unfortunately, it was faster than I could go!  I will try to look up that article and update the post, by the way).  Maybe a change of pace can help this injury as well.

I think it's something to try, and my laboratory will be training for and running the Wild Half Marathon in May.  If I can get through the training miles and finish a half marathon without compartment syndrome symptoms, then I'll feel like I'm back in the long-distance game.  If I can't, it's probably time to admit that anything longer than a 10K is out of reach, and focus on shorter races and/or find new hobbies.

The motivation is back. I'm feeling better mentally and have been more focused.  I just have have to be able to get the miles in.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The End for Now

There's a lot that I wanted to say in this blog post that I realized that I shouldn't put on the Internet.  In short, I've had a lot of struggles this month in my running and I have found every excuse to not get out on the roads:  Too tired, too busy, too icy, some problems with my foot that I'm pretty sure are my fault.  The long and short of it is that I just don't have the motivation to get out there and train hard enough to run half marathons or even think about longer races.

I'm deferring to the 8K at Virginia Beach.  There's just no way I can possibly be in half marathon shape by March 22, for a variety of reasons that are almost all my fault.  I am going to try to train for the Wild Half Marathon in May in Wildwood, NJ.  But beyond that, I don't know.  Right now, it just doesn't seem like running is something I enjoy anymore.  I've just completely lost my motivation.  It goes beyond running, but this is just a running blog. 

My lack of motivation to write this blog has probably been obvious to anyone still that still reads it, with declining entries each year, reflecting fewer and fewer miles.  What's the point of a blog w less than 2 entries per month?  I really do thank you for reading it, though.  I appreciate all the comments, and encouragement, and support over the past 4+ years.  If at some point in the future I'm feeling a passion for running again, Earn Your Donuts might possibly be back, too.

Thanks and best wishes.